Year 10 Essay Help: Assessment Paper Surgery 

One of my best lessons this year… 
Was when I had a mixed ability year 10 GCSE English group. We had done a number of in class assessments as topic reviews and exam practice for different scenes in Romeo and Juliet. A few students had made rapid progress over the past 2 terms, rising from an average grade 3 to grade 6 type responses. Some had found it hard to make the shift from 2 to 3. Some were plateauing in grade 4. A minority were soon to be reaching grade 7 but needed a good shove in the right direction. 
Something that had helped progress was making it repetitively and abundantly clear what the differences between different grades was. It was clear to see who the message was getting home to and to whom it wasn’t. 
I decided to facilitate an assessment paper surgery session. I set the classroom up so that those who got grade 6 occupied a table each at the back of the class. Grade 5s on the row in front. 
Then, I had everyone who had achieved a grade 4 or below visit the grade 6 and grade 5 students individually, just like a Dr’s surgery. They swapped and discussed papers to see why each had got the grade they did. Each student with the higher grade had to give 3 tips on how the other student could improve their work next time. 
This served a few purposes. Firstly, it was very output, essay paper, exam question response focussed. The students were becoming increasingly geared up towards their end game and could see goals and aims ever more clearly. Secondly, the ones who were in need of improving began to take this mission more seriously.
One student who had been struggling to jump from grade 2 to 3 could be overheard saying “I guess I just rambled on in a very vague way without using any technical language terms, and didn’t go into context properly – although I did use a few quotes from the text.” The fact that this was put by this student in such an objective way was a huge leap forward. Until then he had just been a bit aimless and not really taken on board any feedback. His follow up essay was low grade 4. Big improvement. 
Also, although the grade 6 students didn’t have any grade 7s or above to give them tips, the process consolidated what they were doing well and helped them to crystallise their own next steps and made it easier to leap forward. 
Everyone gained something. 

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